The flow of raw materials from the periphery to the core can be seen in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean. From the sixteenth century until the emergence of the structural crisis of the world-system in the 1970s, the natural resources and human labor of Latin America and the Caribbean were used to supply raw materials to the nations of the core, including: gold, silver, sugar, indigo, coffee, rubber, bananas, petroleum, copper, tin, and iron. Thus, Latin America was characterized by dependent capitalist development, undermining possibilities for an autonomous economic development characterized by the development of industry, strong and independent states, the protection of the social and economic rights of the people, and an expanding middle class.
There are powerful actors in the world and in Latin America and the Caribbean who have had particular interests in the development of dependent capitalism in the region: the Latin American estate bourgeoisie, owners of plantations and haciendas that have used cheap and often forced labor to sell agricultural products to the core; international owners of plantations that have extracted agricultural products; international and national owners of mines that have extracted minerals for exportation to the core; and national political actors who have been supported by and have represented powerful national and international economic interests. In contrast to these interests, an emerging industrial bourgeoisie has had an interest in autonomous economic development, since this would entail an expansion of industry. And the popular sectors, including peasants, workers and the middle class, have had an interest in autonomous economic development, since this would involve a strong domestic market for a diversity of agricultural products, diversity in urban employment, and the protection of social and economic rights.
Thus, dependent capitalism in Latin America and the Caribbean unavoidably has been characterized by class conflict, pitting the estate bourgeoisie, their international allies, and their political representatives against an emerging industrial bourgeoisie and the popular sectors. For the most part, the former were able to maintain control of the political process and protect their economic interests from the sixteenth century until the emergence of the structural crisis of the world-system in the 1970s.
In nineteen posts published in 2013, I describe the flow of raw materials from Latin America and the Caribbean, and the interest of national and international actors in establishing and sustaining dependent capitalism:
“The open veins of Latin America: Gold and silver” 8/16/2013;
“Contradictions in colonial Latin America” 8/22/2013;
“Semi-colonial Latin American republics” 8/23/2013;
“Free trade in the 19th century” 8/26/2013;
“The punishment of independent Paraguay” 8/27/2013;
“The open veins of Latin America: Sugar” 8/28/2013;
“Indigo, coffee, and liberal reform” 9/2/2013;
“The Open Veins of Latin America: Coffee” 9/4/2013;
“Liberal reform in 19th century Honduras” 9/5/2013;
“The open veins of Latin America: Rubber” 9/6/2013;
“The open veins of Latin America: Coffee, Part II” 10/14/2013;
“The Open Veins of Latin America: Bananas” 10/15/2013;
“The Underground Sources of Power” 10/16/2013;
“Petroleum in Latin America” 10/17/2013;
“Petroleum in Venezuela” 10/18/2013;
“Copper in Chile” 10/22/2013;
“Tin in Bolivia” 10/23/2013;
“Iron in Venezuela and Brazil” 10/24/2013; and
“The natural resources of the periphery” 10/25/2013.
To find the posts, in the category Latin American History, scroll down.
In the period 1918 to 1979, a project of developmentalism prevailed in most of Latin America and the Caribbean. This was forged by an alliance between the industrial bourgeoisie and the popular sectors, and it enabled a degree of industrial development and the protection of social and economic rights. Developmentalism was a reformist project that did not negate the interests of the estate bourgeoisie or the international bourgeoisie; indeed, the international bourgeoisie cooperated with the project, seeing it as mechanism of social control. During this time, the dream of an autonomous economic project was present in popular hopes throughout the region, inspired by the triumph of revolutions in Cuba, Chile and Nicaragua.
In the 1970s, the world system entered a structural crisis, prompting a turn by the international bourgeoisie to neoliberalism, displacing developmentalism. Inasmuch as the neoliberal project undermined Latin American and Caribbean industry, it represented an abandonment of the twentieth century alliance between the international bourgeoisie and the national industrial bourgeoisies of the Latin American and Caribbean nations. And it represented a reversal of the modest concession that had been made to the popular sectors during the developmentalist project, giving rise to popular rejection of neoliberalism and a renewal of the popular movements beginning in 1994, creating a new political reality in Latin America.
For blog posts on the structural crisis of the world-system, see World-System Crisis. For the new political reality in Latin America since 1994, see blog posts on Latin American and Caribbean unity, South-South cooperation, Bolivia and Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa and the Citizen Revolution in Ecuador as well as a reading on Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.